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2013 Five-Star Generals Commemorative CoinsDecoration Day was first celebrated by Freedmen, freed southern slaves, May 1, 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina to honor the service of the 257 Union soldiers buried at the Washington Race Course. Today, Washington Race Course is known as Hampton Park.

The next year, southern states began their own Memorial Days to honor their soldiers who died during the war. No specific date was used but occurred in late April through June. By 1880, there was a more organized Confederate Memorial Day. These celebrations honored specific soldiers to commemorate the Confederate “Lost Cause.”

In the north, the fraternal organization of Civil War veterans The Grand Army of the Republic began organizing Decoration Day celebrations in 1868. Decoration Day was the day to honor the fallen by decorating the graves of Union soldiers with flowers and flags.

The Nisei Soldiers of World War II Bronze Medal

The Nisei Soldiers of World War II Bronze Medal

Memorial Day did not take on national significances until after World War I. Rather than being a holiday to remember those of died in service during the Civil War, the nation began to recognize all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice during all conflicts. By the end of World War II, most of the celebrations were renamed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day. Memorial Day did not become an official holiday until 1967 and its date changed from the traditional May 30 to the last Monday of the month by the Uniform Holidays Act (Public Law 90-363, 5 U.S.C. § 6103(a)) in 1968.

On this Memorial Day, I want to take this opportunity to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice while defending freedom at home and abroad. Whether it was wars for this country’s freedom, helping allies overseas, world wars, or helping others settle armed conflict around the globe, it is important we take this day to honor their service that helped make this country what it is today.

World War II veteran Richard Overton, left, is seen in his Army uniform in an undated photograph provided by the City of Austin. Overton, 107, sits outside his Texas home earlier this month. (AP/Austin American Statesman)

World War II veteran Richard Overton, left, is seen in his Army uniform in an undated photograph provided by the City of Austin. Overton, 107, sits outside his Texas home earlier this month. (AP/Austin American Statesman)

To read more about 107 year-old Richard Overton, see this story at FoxNews.com.

Coin images courtesy of the U.S. Mint.
Pictures of Richard Overton courtesy of FoxNews.com.

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